This is one of the most common questions we get about OSHA’s new silica dust rule. The short answer is: No, as long as you follow the other applicable requirements and properly maintain the equipment.
Let’s dig in a little more.
Both the construction standard and the general industry and maritime standard say this:
“The employer shall not allow dry sweeping or dry brushing where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming, or other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure are not feasible.”
This requirement establishes wet sweeping and HEPA-filtered vacuuming as the preferred housekeeping methods to control silica dust. What’s unclear is where industrial sweepers fit in — are they considered equivalent to dry sweeping? Or are they more like vacuums and thus require HEPA filtration?
The American Foundry Society (AFS) has been working with OSHA to clarify the requirements surrounding industrial sweepers. Just last month, the AFS announced that OSHA has agreed to allow the use of industrial sweepers without HEPA filters, with certain caveats. Here’s a summary of the requirements as they currently stand:
- HEPA filters are NOT REQUIRED for industrial sweepers, as long as these two conditions are met:
- The employer complies with other applicable requirements, including the use of engineering controls to maintain silica dust exposure below the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
- The equipment is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- HEPA filters ARE RECOMMENDED for industrial sweepers. HEPA-filtered sweepers are considered to be in the same category as HEPA-filtered vacuums. The AFS notes that OSHA is expected to encourage employers purchasing new sweepers to select HEPA-filtered ones.
Keep in mind that the goal of the rule isn’t to get employers to use specific equipment. The goal is to keep workers safe from silica dust. Depending on your environments and applications, the best solution might be a vacuum, a sweeper/scrubber, or a combination of the two.
For more information, visit our Silica Dust Solutions page, where you’ll find articles, videos, whitepapers, and more. If you’d like help deciding what approach is best for you, contact us and we’ll put you in touch with a local floor cleaning equipment expert.